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Analysis of the 2009 Colts roster cuts: Part One

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We have the final roster cut-down list, written up by shake n bake.

  • Almost immediately, there was significant reaction. Granted, every year cuts happen and there is always those one or two cuts where people scream NOOOOOOOOOOO!!! only to get over it once the season starts. But, with players like Dante Hughes, Mike Hart, and (especially) Marcus Howard getting the boot, it should serve as a reminder that the Colts do indeed have a new coach. This new coach has new ideas; ideas that in some cases will differ from his predecessor. And as we have seen, the 2007 and 2008 drafts, which were very heavily influenced by what Tony Dungy likes in players, were not drafts that tickle the fancy of new Colts coach Jim Caldwell.
  • MasterRWayne discusses whether Bill Polian has lost his touch as a draft guru. Currently, only three players remain from the 2007 draft, and three significant players from the 2008 draft were recently let go.
  • John Oehser offers his roster analysis at Examiner.com.
  • 18to88 chimes in.
  • My favorite reader comment on the roster cuts thus far comes from Cassieper:
  • Lance Ball: He wasn’t that good. We only considered keeping him because Hart was injured.

    Guns: Always injured. Never was going to contribute.

    John Gill: Who?

    Mike Hart: Serious injury. The Colts can’t wait until midseason on him.

    Brett McDermott: Once again, who?

    Tom Pestock: Only played in garbage time, never showed anything.

    Taj Smith: Talented, maybe one year away. Cut him to get him on the practice squad. Should have no trouble getting him through the waivers.

    Mike T: Another guy who’s practice squad bound. Wasn’t quite good enough to deal with starting talent.

    Terrance Taylor: A huge project. Cross your fingers and hope he makes it to the practice squad.

    Jaimie Thomas: A huge disappointment so far. Hasn’t shown anything. Practice squad bound.

    Josh Thomas: Only good against the run. Putting him at end would concede the pass. Dawson is as good as him against the run and better as a pass rusher.

    Michael Toudouze: I like him, but he is nowhere near Ugoh and CJ in talent.

    Key and Petrowski: Bad players and injured. Bad combination.

    So there you go.

In just a 24-hour period, this site has over 1,000 comments from numerous readers about the cuts. I did my best to read as many varying opinions as possible. After reading the comments, the articles, and examining how other teams dealt with the roster cut-downs, I have finally posted my analysis after the jump.

First off, I understand that the immediate reaction to the cuts seems like a stinging indictment of Polian's job, particularly when you look at the 2007 and 2008 drafts. Now, important to note that in neither of those drafts did Polian "bust" his first round pick, like Jerry Angelo with the Chicago Bears has done pretty much since 2004 (Rex Grossman, Cedric Benson, Chris Williams, etc.) With 2007 and 2008, it is important to note that those drafts were made with Tony Dungy working with Polian. Dungy had a specific philosophy about players. He valued certain traits over others. Bill respected that philosophy and draft accordingly.

But Dungy's philosophy on players is not necessarily shared by Jim Caldwell.

Dungy valued speed over size. This is why Marcus Howard and Curtis Johnson were so valued by Tony D. Clearly, Bill Polian and Jim Caldwell do not value speed over size as much. The Colts asked Cujo to add 15 pounds of muscle this off-season (which he did), but his efforts were not enough to supplant Keyunta Dawson. Dawson made the transition back to DE (his college position) during the off-season, and performed very well in camp and pre-season. Last season, Dawson was the starting defensive tackle, weighing in at 260 pounds. Now, he is more comfortable, and better suited, as a DE.

Thus, the smaller, quicker players like Howard and Cujo are expendable.

And I know some of you are screaming "WHAT ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED IN 2007 WHEN FREENEY AND MATHIS GOT HURT!" Folks, if Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis get hurt again as they did in 2007, it is the equivalent of losing Peyton Manning and Jeff Saturday. A player like Marcus Howard is not going to replace Dwight Freeney; not in this new defensive system. Indeed, one of the reasons Freeney and (especially) Mathis got hurt in 2007 was because the Colts relied too much on them for the pass rush. In a Tampa-2, the front four (not the front two) need to apply QB pressure. And now with Larry Coyer dialing up blitzes from Philip Wheeler (an excellent blitzer in college), Melvin Bullitt, and eventually Bob Sanders, the scheme should (in theory) create more rush without solely relying on Freeney and Mathis.

Also, I think Caldwell is just tired of seeing teams run the football at Indy's front, and having DEs weighting 245 pounds is not going to help you stop the run.

For Mike Hart, it is possible that he could be signed to the practice squad, but I think that's remote. Hart's knock coming out of college was he was "beaten up" after all the hits he took rushing for all those yards in the Big Ten. Last year, he blew out his knee and this pre-season he injured both his ankles. This is a bottom line business, folks. If you cannot stay healthy, you're not going to keep your job long.

And for all the Doom and Gloom folks who think that the cuts signal the "downfall" of the Colts, please take a moment to check out KFFL.com, or browse through the numerous SB Nation football sites. You will see all the cuts and roster moves other teams had to wrestle with. Many of these moves involved players many of us wanted the Colts to draft or sign in 2007 and 2008:

  • Buccaneers safety Tanard Jackson was placed on the suspended list. We thought highly of him in 2007.
  • The Bengals cut safety Corey Lynch. We also thought highly of him in 2008.
  • The Patriots cut Kevin O'Connell, another player in the 2008 NFL Draft we liked.
  • Packers first round bust Justin Harrell was placed on IR. For all the screaming about getting a quality DT the last three years, it seems Harrell clearly was not the answer in 2007. I thought he was. Clearly, I was wrong. Green Bay had to suffer through a horrid 6-10 season to draft B.J. Raji, and none of us know if he will be any good. He also signed late.
  • Packers also cut Brian Brohm, the "insurance QB" in case Aaron Rodgers turned out to suck. Brohm had a prolific career at Louisville, and if he had come out after his junior season, he might have been a first round pick.
  • John David Booty was cut.
  • Kory Sheets was cut.
  • Mitch King was cut.
  • Dominic Rhodes was cut. Hell, Marshawn Lynch is suspended for three games, and Dom still got cut. The Bills are a complete mess, folks.
  • DeMario Pressley, a DT from 2008 some wanted the Colts to grab, was cut by the Saints. So was former Colts WR Courtney Roby.
  • Adam Carriker, who I wanted the Colts trade trade for last season, is now on IR.
  • Broncos cut Tim Crowder, their second round pick from 2007.
  • The Jaguars IRed their starting DT from last season, Rob Meier.

So, no offense, but to those who seem to second guess Bill Polian for the 2007 and 2008 drafts (like Paul Kuharsky at ESPN), kindly tell me who he was supposed to take. Many of the players we all wanted Polian to pick up then are now in the same boat as Mike Hart, Marcus Howard, and Dante Hughes. If you want to bash him for trading up to get Tony Ugoh in 2007 and, thus, preventing Indy from getting a player like Matt Forte in 2008, then fine. I think that's fair. But, from where I'm sitting, it looks like the 2007 and 2008 drafts just did not foster the kind of overall NFL talent we are used to seeing from the collegiate ranks.

It's also important to note that from the now dreaded 2007 draft, Polian managed to sign then-free agent rookie Melvin Bullitt. So, it's not like lunch meat came out of 2007. Clearly, taking Anthony Gonzalez worked out better than trading up to get someone like Justin Harrell.

All of us are so used to seeing Polian draft picks work out that, when they don't, we scratch our head and wonder if we haven't been transported into some netherworld, alternate reality. But if you look around the NFL right now, lots of "name" players from the 2007 and 2008 drafts are, indeed, now looking for work.

Part two of my roster evaluation will get posted later today while teams begin putting in waiver claims for many of the recently cut players.